Brian Michael Bendis is best known for writing the Avengers and Spider-Man, but it was his work on creator-owned comics like Jinx and Fire that first got him noticed within in the industry.
Now a major mainstream success for the past dozen years, his commitment to creator-owned comics remains clear, currently working on Powers and Takio with Michael Avon Oeming, Brilliant with Mark Bagley and the soon-to-return Scarlet with Alex Maleev.
In the third and final part of our interview, we talked to Bendis about his current creator-owned slate — including the upcoming transition from Powers to Powers FBI and the latest word on the still-in-development Powers TV show at FX, plus some hints about what he'll be working on at Marvel after wrapping up his Avengers stint.
And if you missed it: Here's Part 1, featuring Bendis discussing Avengers, Avengers vs. X-Men and the Avengers film; and Part 2, focusing on Spider-Men, the first meeting between Miles Morales and Peter Parker.
Newsarama: Brian, let's talk about your creator-owned books — it was announced at C2E2 that Powers is now Powers FBI. What prompted that change?
Brian Michael Bendis: We get to a place in the story of Powers where Deena Pilgrim, who has been the lead of the book for years, has gone away and come back as an FBI agent with her own task force. She comes back into Walker's story — Walker's still a homicide detective — and the case that they're working on together kind of brings it to a place where it makes a lot of sense for both Walker and Deena to become FBI agents, because of their very specific skill set.
First Mike said, "I want to do a miniseries where it's all Deena as an FBI agent." And I said, "I want to a series where it's the two of them as FBI agents." And that's the book now. We were always running up against that logic of, "Where does this not become a federal case?"
I also thought that if the book was more FBI-oriented, I may not have that problem where I stop working on the book because I'm working on the TV show. Because we're still working on the TV show — even though I know no one believes me. We had a big meeting [two weeks ago] with FX where the writers told the network, "Here's what the show is going to be." It was as big deal. It was really about whether or not they thought it was worth going forward. And they said, "Go write," and that was the best news we could have gotten, so they're off writing. It was very good, and I really do like these guys a lot, and they couldn't be more devoted to the characters.Powers Vol. 14. I did feel very guilty about taking so much time away from the comic, so now that we're back, and we've already put out three issues this year, and the fourth is going to print this week. Starting in July, we'll have Powers FBI — which is a brand-new #1, and people can jump right in who just are hearing about it now. It's the best kind of stories we do, but with a different setting than we've been telling them in. I kind of look at it like Mad Men was all in the Sterling Cooper offices, and then they switched to those white offices. So that's what it's like.
Nrama: With you and Mike having done Powers for so long, and living with these characters for more than 12 years now, I imagine there's a motivation to take them to a new place — and obviously you have that freedom, since it's creator-owned.
Bendis: I get feisty about this. Everyone stomps their feet about creator rights and creator-owned, but I don't think some people do anything with it. Creator-owned means you can stop the book midstream and just do something else with it, and I kind of wish more people would. Once a book is successful they just keep doing it over and over again. It's human nature; I totally get it. But like when we did our monkey issue, I was like, "It's our book. This is the only place in the world where we can do whatever the hell we want. So let's do whatever the hell we want." And if we have the idea to make it an FBI book, we'll make it a f*cking FBI book, f*ck it. It's not like I'm just pulling ninja robots out of my ass or something. It's story-motivated. We shouldn't be scared. If the book completely falls apart because we took too big of a gamble, alright, that's the best way it could fall apart. But I don't think it will. Mike Oeming particularly seems crazy invigorated — he's tweeting every five seconds about it.
I would like more books to do that. I would like books to surprise me, because a lot of times you see a book debut, and you pretty much can tell where it's going to go for the next couple of years. I like the ones where you go, "Wow, you took me for a ride. Did not see that."
Nrama: A different type of creator-owned book from you and Oeming, Takio, started a new volume recently.
Bendis: Yes, Takio — we just debuted our new #1. We got the cutest letters in the world. Not to be braggy, a couple of days ago I went to my PO Box, and got a fistful of letters from an elementary school in Florida. The cutest letters in the world, with little drawings — long letters, too, like, really long. These kids hit the free comic book mother lode because they remembered to send their address. The Takio letters have been so exciting and so fun. There's nothing like a kid going, "I've got to write a letter. I've got things to say." Look forward to that in upcoming issues. That was the point of switching from graphic novels to a series, is that we could engage the audience in a different way.
Nrama: Certainly a lot different from the old days of the Powers letters column.
Bendis: It is, and that's the funniest thing. I don't know if you've seen it yet, but even explaining it to my more die-hard audience — listen. This is going to be all-ages. I can't even put in an ad for Scarlet or Powers in the back of the book. There's an ad for the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, but not for Powers, because it's wildly inappropriate.
Nrama: And Brilliant is also still going.
Bendis: Yes. The next issue will be out in like two weeks.
Nrama: What about Scarlet? The plan is still to pick back up with that, correct?
Bendis: Scarlet is coming back. I get more polite but annoyed comments about "Where the hell is Scarlet?" than anything. I was just in Australia — every person asked me where Scarlet is.
Nrama: Well, you guys just did 12 issues of Moon Knight, so it's not like that time came from nowhere.
Bendis: That wasn't the problem. Alex, even though he's a very private person, I will break the man code and tell you — he had a baby. Not himself; that would have been news. But he and his wife had a baby, and it slowed him down tremendously. The chapter in front of him is so violent that I don't think his brain could even go from changing little tiny baby diapers to drawing what was in front of him. Lo and behold, he emailed me and said, "I hope you have a bunch of scripts ready." The day he hands it in, it will be lettered, and the next day it will go to the printer. He's almost done, and hopefully I will announce on Twitter in the next week or two that Scarlet has gone to the printer.I'm sorry, I truly am, but it's just the way it happens. We're very passionate about the book, and we will finish it. I even asked Alex to make sure that was the case, and he was like, "Absolutely." We will finish the book, it's very important to us, but at the end of the day, it truly is art, and you can't force it. It's not like Alex is an unprofessional person — he's a crazy professional person. He's never missed. But he wanted to do it right, and wanted to do it when he was ready to do it. So he will now do it.
Nrama: Which is another luxury afforded by creator-owned comics, because it's not like other books are dependent on it to keep on schedule.
Bendis: That's the case, too, but I do know that it bothers me when people are being so supportive and I can't just hand it to them. But on the flipside, there is something nice about every couple of days I get a tweet from someone who just didn't realize that Powers was shipping again, and then they get a bunch of them at once, so that seems very exciting for people. I know that feeling.
Nrama: To wrap up, there's obviously been a lot of speculation and guessing — even during this interview — about what you might be doing next after Avengers…
Bendis: I have so much Avengers left to do in the next few months. And yet I'm already working on what I'm doing next, which people don't know about. I'm going to wait until the time has come.
There's been an overwhelmingly very nice wave of niceness headed at me about all the different projects, and if I say it every day it sounds fake, so I don't know when to say how much I appreciate it. People are being very devoted to books that are sometimes very hard to find. So as we wrap up Avengers and I start what will obviously be the next phrase of what I do at Marvel, I just want to thank everybody for their open-mindedness and sometimes patience, and willingness to have fun. Literally every hour someone writes something nice about Miles Morales to me. It's really, really sweet. As we move on to these new projects, which I hope is a continuation at least thematically of what I feel about these superheroes, and superheroes in general, and these characters, I just want to say thanks.
Nrama: When do you think we might hear definitively about your post-Avengers projects?
Bendis: What solicitations just came out?
Bendis: August. So… pretty soon. Honestly, pretty soon. It's going to hit solicitations very shortly. Dun dun dun.
Beyond what I'm doing, what's coming at Marvel after Avengers vs. X-Men is, on paper, what Marvel does better than anybody. It's very exciting stuff. I got an Excel sheet of everything, I was looking at it: "That just looks strong as hell. That looks killer." I'm very excited about all of it, and my place in it.
I wrote a list of the books I'm working on, and the people I'm working on it with, and I could not imagine a better situation for myself. I really was like, "Wow, that's amazing;" and it's all shipping at once. We'll talk in a few months and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about.More from Newsarama:
- What Might Be Next For BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS, Post-AVENGERS?
- Spec Ops: Where at Marvel Will BENDIS, HICKMAN, More End Up?
- Powers TV Show “Starting Over”
- Bendis and Bagley on Their BRILLIANT Creator-Owned Debut
- NYCC 2010: BENDIS and OEMING Take On All-Ages Series TAKIO